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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend

on Social Security Reform.

I have repeatedly redundantly reported my disagreement with many people who think that Democrats should just say no to Bush's plans for Social Security. I have argued again and again that a better response is to advocate eliminating the ceiling on FICA and changing nothing else. The argument against this seems to be twofold. First polls showing that this is popular are not to be trusted. Second the Democrats have to maintain discipline or a good plan will pass the Senate and then turn into a bad un filibusterable plan in the conference committee. I never imagined that a plan which consisted only of eliminating the ceiling would pass any majority Republican body. No bill no conference committee and no bill no problem with people deciding they don't like it after all now that it is a real possibility.

Now I want to disagree more radically with they guys (and gal) being Reid, Pelosi, Atrios, Drum, Yglesias, and Marshall (note quick escape from official Washington to cyberspace). I think the Democrats don't need discipline. I think the Democrats need indiscipline, extreme indiscipline total (fake) indiscipline. The point is that, since insolvency of the SSA trust fund is a minor fiscal problem compared with the Bush fiscal train wreck, there are many many ways to solve the problem. In fact there are many popular populists ways to solve the problem. I see there is a problem with the Democrats presenting a Democrat plan. I think that there should be a Democrat plan of the week; each appealing to most Americans and unacceptable to Republicans. That is, I thin that different Democrat senators should propose different plans. This complete chaos of clear ideas will make it impossible for the Republicans to reach a deal in the Senate in order to set up a conference committee. They will have the option of betraying their principles and their contributors in exchange for one vote in the Senate. The vigorous (fake) debate among Democrats will give the impression of ideological flexibility and great effort to solve the problem.

So senator 1 should say "I have a plan to make the SSA trust fund solvent without any cost to most Americans. I think we should eliminate the Ceiling."

Congressman 2 says "Well sure Senator 1's plan would work and it is much better than the Bush plan, but it hits the upper middle class. I think we should restore the estate tax and use it to make the SSA trust fund solvent"

Senator 3 says "well plan 1 and plan 2 would work and are much better than the Bush plan, but I like the idea of making a killing in stock so the SSA should invest in Stock"

Senator 4 says "well plan 1, plan 2 and plan 3 would work and are much better than the Bush plan, but I am worried about a stock crash. The safe part of stock is the dividend, the risky part is the capital gain or loss, so I think the SSA should be funded partly with a tax on dividend income (like the one Glenn Hubbard convinced Bush to cut).

Pundit 5 says "Finally Democrats are trying to solve the problem instead of just saying no. Their plans 1 through 4 are better than the Bush plan. However I am an independent (lying in the same way but not the same direction as O'Reilly) and I prefer spending cuts to tax increases. I notice that the social security shortfall is roughly equal to the absurd medicare prescription drug benefit give away. §Why not allow the medicare administration bargain for lower drug prices and use the money to cover the SSA shortfall.

(the last has to be an "independent" because it is better not to mix up medicare and social security)

The plan of the week strategy is like a filibuster in that, if succesful it will prolong debate not just in the senate but on poliitical talk shows. I mean reporters want something new. If the Democrats give them something new every week, they might cover the Democrats. This will extend the Social Security debate (which is a very good thing for Democrats). I think the analogy is Marathon (not the race the battle) and argue with John Milton that "our maniples will defeat the phalanx of the enemy" or something. The Republicans could not take advantage of these fake openings, because the lack of ideological rigidity of the Democrats would be so extreme that they would have no idea of who to deal with. Also the plan of the week would show how easy it is to think of a better plan than the Bush plan.

One might argue that the Democrats do not need a new strategy, since they are clearly winning the battle on social security reform. This ignores the fact that the battle has also caused approval of Bush and Republicans generally to plumment. The Democrats need to find a way to snatch debate from the jaws of victory.

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